The Learning & Participation Department of the Greek National Opera presents the musical fairy tale How Did A Raven End Up in the Belly of the Whale? exclusively on GNO TV. The performance will be available for free on nationalopera.gr/GNOTV/en until 31 August 2022. It is the artistic fruit of an educational programme of the same title that was conducted this year in collaboration with seven primary schools of Attica. The programme, through modern and innovative tools, introduced dozens of educators and primary school students into the world of music theatre, as it is today served by the Greek National Opera.
Over 130 children and adult performers take part in the musical performance How Did A Raven End Up in the Belly of the Whale?, which is based on a traditional myth of the Inuit tribe (the Eskimos of Alaska, Greenland and Canada). Polyphonic folk songs, nature soundscapes and contemporary musical idioms compose a riveting musical fairy tale that converses with the art of animation, offering a rare viewing and listening experience to the audience. The performance is conducted and curated by Dimitra Trypani and the musical fairy tale’s score was composed by Ismini Gyftaki-Beck.
On Sunday 27 June 2021, at 21.00, the GNO Learning & Participation Department in collaboration with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) present a special screening of the performance How Did A Raven End Up in the Belly of the Whale?, at the Great Lawn of the Stavros Niarchos Park, offering children and grown-ups a unique chance to enjoy this musical fairy tale on a giant screen. Admission to the event is free. All necessary safety measures against COVID-19 according to National Public Health Organization guidance have been taken and will be adhered to at all times.
Filmed at the GNO Stavros Niarchos Hall at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center on 27 and 28 May 2021.
Greek and English subtitles available
This production and the creation of GNO TV are made possible through a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) [www.SNF.org] that supports the Greek National Opera’s artistic outreach.
How was the Raven created?
The performance How Did A Raven End Up in the Belly of the Whale? is based on a traditional myth of the Inuit tribe – the Eskimos of Alaska, Greenland and Canada. The myth describes how the first song and the first dance were born into this world. The performance consists of two different yet intertwined music works, which create a coherent, vibrant musical fairy tale. The first work that provided the inspiration and the ideal context for this performance is Ismini Gyftaki-Beck’s The Raven and the Whale, a contemporary musical fairy tale for nine voices and a small chamber ensemble. The second one, which serves as a musico-theatrical accompaniment of the first one, is a cycle of six polyphonic traditional folk songs from Greece and abroad, reworked by Dimitra Trypani.
About the animation
The animation emerged from the need to approach the sensitivity that runs through Ismini Beck’s and Dimitra Trypani’s musical composition, but also from the story that inspired the performance How Did A Raven End Up in the Belly of the Whale?.
Based on this story, we embarked on an aesthetic quest for traditional art forms, such as the Inuit sculpture, origami creations, and illustrations of dancing figures inspired by animals. Although the Inuit art is, in its own right, distinctive and rich –both its sculpture and painting–, the special way in which the story shows how vulnerable its heroes are in their relationships and how fragile the inner world of each of them is, led us to something equally fragile and sensitive: origami, the art of paper folding. For this reason, the animation characters and sets look like origami creations, preserving some references to the Inuit art, mostly to the way they depict animals in sculptures. Throughout the performance, images converse with music and narration, aiming to present those things in the story, which are implied yet not described.
The education programme behind the performance
The new pilot, artistic and pedagogical programme How Did A Raven End Up in the Belly of the Whale? was launched by the GNO Learning & Participation Department in September 2020. The GNO issued an open call for primary schools in the Region of Attica to participate in the programme, aspiring to bring educators and primary school students in contact with the fascinating world of music theatre through the use of modern and pioneering tools. The goals of the programme, which lasted a total of eight months, were to acquire new artistic and technical skills, to renew and improve –through these new skills– the quality of school events that educators prepare every year together with their students, and also to introduce educators and students into the creative process of the staging of music theatre performances. The performance How Did A Raven End Up in the Belly of the Whale? is the artistic result of the complete cycle of workshops that were held this year, with the participation of seven schools, nine teachers and approximately 110 students of the fourth, fifth and sixth grade of primary school.
At a glance – Synopsis
The Raven –a god with a human soul– created the whole world. Animals, humans, trees, flowers. One day, as he was travelling around this brand new world in a canoe, he saw a whale resting on the surface of the water and wondered: “How would it feel like to be inside the belly of a whale?” So, as the whale opened its mouth, he got out of his canoe and sneaked into its belly.
To his surprise, what he saw inside the whale’s belly was a beautiful girl dancing. Enchanted by her beauty, he asked her to run away with him. But the girl was the whale’s Soul and she said to the Raven that she couldn’t leave. Blinded by love, the Raven forgot her words at once. He cut the ropes that were keeping her tied to the beast’s belly and seized her. He put her on his back and flew off. But as he was flying away, all of a sudden he noticed that the whale was dying and that the girl was getting smaller and smaller, until she too perished forever.
The Raven was sad. He realised that in this world everything lives and dies, and that everything that breathes and moves has a heart and a soul. He stayed next to the whale’s carcass grieving for many weeks. At some point, sad as he was, he started dancing and singing until gradually the pain grew weaker. Then he spread his wings again and flew away.
The Raven’s tears were the first tears to be shed on earth. His dance and song were the first dance and the first song in this world.
Creative team – Cast
Planning, artistic supervision, folk songs arrangement, conductor: Dimitra Trypani
Music, text: Ismini Gyftaki-Beck
Video, animation: Yorgos Nikopoulos
Music preparation: Nikos Ziaziaris, Sophia Ketentzian, Aliki Siousti
Body percussion training: Antonis Vassiliadis
Filming, editing: Grigoris Panopoulos
Sound recording, editing: Studio 19, Kostas Bokos
Musicians: Sophia Alifieraki (flute), Angeliki Kasda (violin), Despina Spanou (cello), Elias Algaer (double bass),
Yorgos Kasavetis (percussion), Dimitra Kokkinopoulou (piano)
Drossiella Kaloudi, Liana Kokosi, Vivi Sykioti, Vassilios Gounelas, Chryssostomos Kalogridakis, Andreas Karaoulis, Marinos Tarnanas
With the participation of teachers and students from schools of Attica
Dimitra Trypani notes: “The performance belongs to the genre of contemporary music theatre and is musically marked by intense multistylistic elements. Its approximately 130 child and grown-up performers take on multiple performative ‘tasks’: polyphonic singing, a strictly defined narration (rhythmic and melodic), and body percussion. The main narrators are the adult participants: the teachers, the coordinators of the programme and seven singers. The over one hundred child performers –students of the fourth, fifth and sixth grade of primary school– sing the six reworked songs and narrate parts of the story in a particular tone or through the creation of soundscapes, always in constant conversation with Yorgos Nikopoulos’ wonderful animation that accompanies the performance.”